LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was nearing midnight, and Jamal Murray concluded his postgame news conference by slowly rising from his folding chair with the expression of someone who had spent 12 hours on an assembly line. He had football-size ice packs on his knees. As he lumbered toward the door and a waiting bus outside, he let out a load groan.
Murray had done everything he conceivably could for the Denver Nuggets in their 114-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, and you may have heard something like this before. Throughout the N.B.A.’s restart at Walt Disney World, no player has been more dynamic or entertaining or competitive than Murray, a 23-year-old point guard who has emerged as a star.
His theatrics may not be enough against the Lakers, who have a three-games-to-one lead in the N.B.A.’s Western Conference finals before Game 5 on Saturday. All Murray did in Game 4 was collect 32 points and 8 assists while shooting 12 of 20 from the field. He was so good, LeBron James defended him in the fourth quarter as the Lakers fought to preserve their lead.
“I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going,” James said. “The kid is special.”
The level of difficulty for Murray’s shots tends to range from tricky to hazardous. He shoots from one foot. He shoots with the wrong hand. He shoots falling down. He shoots while absorbing contact from large human beings. He shoots with opposing elbows in his stomach and palms in his face. He shoots by throwing the ball off the backboard from absurd angles, and he shoots by launching 3-pointers from Epcot Center. But he keeps shooting, and he will need to shoot some more if the Nuggets have any chance in the series.
Then again, the Nuggets are comeback kings. Already in this postseason, they have bounced back from a pair of three-games-to-one series deficits — against the Utah Jazz in the first round, then against the Los Angeles Clippers in the conference semifinals. The Nuggets are familiar with bleak ci